Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Homemade Freezer-Friendly Falafel

Put those take-out menus away and satisfy your craving for Middle Eastern flavors with this homemade freezer-friendly falafel. 

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Homemade Freezer-Friendly Falafel

Growing up in Connecticut, I was introduced to the wonder of falafel at a mainstay of the New Haven restaurant scene -- Mamoun's. And every time I have falafel at a new restaurant, I compare it to the falafel at Mamoun's. I'm so smitten with their version that it took me a long time to convince myself to try making falafel at home.

Since a trip to Mamoun's now involves spending hours in the car, it made more sense to see I could successfully make falafel in my own kitchen. For guidance, I turned to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and prayed that the resulting spiced bean fritters would have the power to take me home again.

I don't want to spoil the whole story behind this falafel, but I will say this right now -- my first attempt was disastrous and I had to throw out the entire batch before even attempting to fry up the fritters. (Keep reading to find out what what wrong.)

Thank goodness I'm stubborn and tried again. ;-)

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Soaked Chickpeas

The first time around, I used canned chickpeas because I had them on hand and, despite leaving them to drain for a long time, the batter turned out pretty wet. For my next attempt, I stayed true to the recipe's recommendation and used dried chickpeas that I had soaked for a full day before draining. Much, much better.

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Cloves of Garlic

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Quartered Onion

The next ingredients were straightforward - garlic and onion. You're going to pulse everything together in your food processor, so go on and keep everything chunky.

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Ground Coriander

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Ground Cumin

Now, when it comes to the spices, don't compromise here. You want to use both ground coriander and ground cumin to create a depth of flavors that is undeniably Middle Eastern. If you want, add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a subtle background heat.

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Fresh Cilantro

To brighten all of the flavors, add a full cup of chopped fresh cilantro. If you're not a fan of cilantro, then you can easily use fresh parsley instead. Then add salt and pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice to bring everything together.

Now, the next step is key. If you do happen to have the 10th anniversary edition of How to Cook Everything and you do decide to follow the recipe for falafel that begins on page 439, do not add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda as printed.

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Homemade Falafel Batter

What results is a horribly bitter batter. So bitter that you will likely spit it out into the trash after taking a small taste to check for balance. Of course, you won't really believe that the batter tastes bad, so you'll enlist the help of your spouse to taste it, too. And you'll have a repeat of the spitting-it-out-into-the-trash. And then you'll be incredibly mad at yourself that you wasted all that time and energy making something that you had to scrap completely before eating the way you intended.

So... If you want to save yourself all of that drama, then do yourself a favor and mark the recipe now. Change it to read 1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER, which is what's listed in the first edition of How to Cook Everything (yes, we own both versions).

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Homemade Falafel

Because my batter was still a little wetter than I would have preferred, I decided to shape all of the balls ahead of frying to give them some time to hang out on a layer of paper toweling. As you can see in the picture, that really helped draw out some of the excess moisture in the falafel.

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Frying Homemade Falafel

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Frying Homemade Falafel

Heat a neutral oil (like grapeseed or corn) in a large, deep saucepan until it reaches about 350°F. To make sure I kept the temperature of the oil consistent, (I used my cast-iron skillet and it worked really, really well.) You'll want to fry the falafel in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan and so the fritters turn a lovely golden brown color on the outside. All in all, it'll take less than 5 minutes per batch.

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Homemade Freezer-Friendly Falafel

When you take the falafel out of the oil, allow the fritters to drain in a single layer on some brown paper (or paper towels if that's all you have). This will help pull the excess grease away from the falafel, leaving you with row after row of delectable crispy bites ready for serving.

If you're not planning on serving all of the falafel right away, then you can easily put some away in the freezer for a rainy day. Just let them come to room temperature completely before putting them in a freezer-safe container or a freezer bag. To reheat, wrap the falafel in aluminum foil and bake at 350°F until they're hot throughout, about 15-30 minutes.

In other words, don't be afraid by the yield here. In my world, it's always better to make more than you need so you can freeze some for later rather than doubling your work by making smaller batches as you need them.

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Homemade Freezer-Friendly Falafel

Serve the falafel in pita with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Or serve in a salad with mixed greens and an assortment of raw vegetables. Or serve them on their own with a dollop of tahini sauce and/or some hot sauce. No matter how you serve the falafel, I have no doubt you'll love it.

Homemade Freezer-Friendly Falafel
Total Time: 1 hour, plus 24 hours to soak the chickpeas | Yield: Serves 6 | Printable Recipe

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 3/4 cups dried chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for deep-frying

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches. (They will triple in volume as they soak, so be sure you give them enough room to do so!) Soak the chickpeas for 24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add more water to keep them submerged.
  2. Drain the chickpeas really well and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Add  the garlic, onion, ground coriander, ground cumin, cilantro, salt, pepper, baking powder, and lemon juice. Pulse until the ingredients are minced but not pureed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  3. Taste as adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed.
    Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the mixture and shape them into balls or small patties. Let the balls or patties rest on a layer of paper towel to pull excess moisture out of them as you heat the oil.
  4. Put at least 2 inches of oil in a large, deep saucepan and heat over medium-high until the oil is about 350°F.
  5. Fry the falafel in batches, turning as necessary. The total cooking time for each batch will be less than 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the falafel from the oil and drain on brown paper or paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Recipe by Michelle Rittler, Taste As You Go | Adapted from How to Cook Everything, revised 10th anniversary edition

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